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First U.S. Ebola Case Confirmed In Dallas


Let's trace the story now of the first person diagnosed with the Ebola virus inside the United States. A traveler carried that virus. He came to Texas from Liberia. Now he is in a hospital in isolation and in critical condition. But it took some time to understand what was happening. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: The story begins on September 19, when a man in Liberia boarded a plane for Texas. He was tested for fever at the airport and showed none. That's important because this strain of Ebola is not contagious until symptoms of the illness begin to present in the patient. For three days after he arrived in Dallas on the 20, all was well. But last Wednesday, the man became sick. By Friday, he was so ill he went to the emergency room at Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Edward Goodman, the top infectious disease specialist at Presbyterian, describes what happened next.


EDWARD GOODMAN: I think he was evaluated for his illness, which was very nondescript. He had some laboratory tests, which were not very impressive. And he was dismissed on some antibiotic because he was like the majority of people who come in the emergency room.

GOODWYN: If Dr. Goodman sounds the tiniest bit defensive, it's because of what happened next. Although the ER staff didn't realize it, Presby released an infected, contagious Ebola patient back into the general population. It will be this span of time, from when the Ebola symptoms first presented themselves up until when the man was admitted to the hospital, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will focus its tracking effort. As for the man who came from Liberia, as the weekend came to a close, he'd grown so seriously ill with Ebola he returned to Presbyterian. Dr. Goodman says this go-around, the ER staff figured out what they were looking at pretty quickly.


GOODMAN: I think those caring for him were suspicious of that almost immediately. The emergency room people identified that as a concern and consulted infection prevention department, which is my department, and consulted the infectious disease clinician. And that was on the top of everyone's list.

GOODWYN: Ebola - it had quietly slipped into Dallas through the eighth-busiest airport in the world. Though the diagnosis would not be confirmed by the CDC for another two days, the patient was nevertheless whisked away into the hospital's isolation unit in intensive care.


GOODMAN: When they're having symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea, they can lose fluid. And that can lead to damage to organs. So the key is volume fluid replenishment, maintaining oxygen as needed and supportive care in treatment of symptoms.

GOODWYN: While the story, of course, leads the news in Dallas...


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: This is breaking news from CBS 11, coverage you can count on.

GOODWYN: ...The tone of the coverage has generally not been hysterical.


UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. We're going to begin with major breaking news at 6 o'clock tonight. The very first case of the Ebola virus to be diagnosed on U.S. soil is now in our backyard.

GOODWYN: In July, Dr. Kent Brantly, a doctor from Fort Worth who treated patients with Ebola in west Africa, contracted the disease himself. In the news, north Texans followed his plight. And to everyone's joy, Brantly was flown back to the U.S. and survived, eventually returning to Fort Worth to tell his story of service and survival. And that's the context many in Dallas-Fort Worth bring to the news of this disease. In Atlanta, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, was happy to reinforce that idea.

TOM FRIEDEN: The bottom line here is that I have no doubt we will control this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country.

GOODWYN: In the meantime, the doctors of Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas would like nothing more than to have their Ebola patient enjoy the same ending as the brave Dr. Brantly in Fort Worth. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.
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